Monthly Archives: December 2008

What to do about Spam?

Some sources estimate that 90% of all e-mail in North America and Europe is actually spam, also known as unsolicited junk e-mail. That means that only 10% of the e-mail messages sent are legitimate! How are we supposed to cope with the overwhelming volume of potentially dangerous trash?

We’ve put a system in place at Illinois Wesleyan called Red Condor. It isn’t perfect, but it keeps some of the junk out of your inbox. Sometimes junk slips through, and sometimes good stuff gets caught. Things can get confusing when that happens. To help clear things up, Lisa and I have come up with a few bits of advice for working with spam and Red Condor at IWU:

  • DON’T spend a lot of time managing your Red Condor quarantine list. Nothing special happens when this junk mailbox is empty. Just scan your spam digest for good e-mails that have gotten caught, then forget about the rest. If you waste your day sorting junk, the spammers have already won.
  • DO use a free throwaway e-mail account when you sign up for sites and services on the web. Google and Yahoo offer e-mail accounts with lots of storage that can soak up unwanted commercial e-mail while your main account remains focused on real correspondence.
  • DON’T automatically trust e-mail even if it appears to come from a familiar address. We have seen reports of junk e-mail that seems to be from one’s own account! Most of these cases are “spoofed” e-mail, in which its origins have been fraudulently masked or replaced with something you are likely to trust. Don’t send sensitive personal information via e-mail.
  • DO manage your Red Condor spam filter by using “friends” and “enemies” lists. The “friends” list will permanently allow mail from a sender a free pass through the spam blocker. The “enemies” list will automatically reject mail from a sender. Keeping these lists up to date is like training Red Condor to work more efficiently. This will allow you to be more efficient, spending less time picking good e-mail out of the Red Condor junk mailbox.
  • DON’T add your own e-mail or “iwu.edu” to the Red Condor “friends” list. This allows any spoofed e-mail fraudulently claiming an IWU address a free pass through the spam filter right into your inbox!
  • DO use the junk filters in your own e-mail program as a second line of defense. Thunderbird, Outlook, Eudora, and Apple Mail all have their own systems to detect spam e-mail. Turning this feature on can catch junk mail that Red Condor has missed.

As always, you can contact the IT Help Desk at (309) 556-3900 or by sending e-mail to helpdesk@iwu.edu. We are happy to help you overcome this frustrating problem!